June is Torture Awareness Month — to commemorate this important issue, Pope Francis has named the abolition of torture as the intention for his monthly prayer video. (Watch the video at this link.)
In this month’s video, Pope Francis says, “Torture is not past history. Unfortunately, it’s part of our history today. … There are extremely violent forms of torture. Others are more sophisticated, such as degrading someone, dulling the senses, or mass detentions in conditions so inhumane that they take away the dignity of the person. … Let us put a stop to this horror of torture. It is essential to put the dignity of the person above all else. … Let us pray that the international community commit itself concretely to abolish torture, guaranteeing support to victims and their families.”
Pax Christi USA has worked on this issue for years, as it has long been connected to militarism and war-making. We have drawn inspiration and guidance from our beloved friend Sr. Dianna Ortiz, OSU, who survived torture in 1989 and went on to found and lead the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC). In honor of Dianna and to observe this month, we have reprinted the prayer card she did for us in 2005, “Jesus, Our Tortured Brother Today,” updated with new action suggestions. (See more info below.)
We continue to feel Dianna’s presence in our work and are committed to honoring her and so many others’ efforts to raise awareness of and advocate for an end to torture.
Jesus, Our Tortured Brother Today
By Sr. Dianna Ortiz, OSU
Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace and former staff member, wrote the following prayer for Pax Christi USA in the early 2000s. Make it a part of your prayer this month and share it with others in your parish, local group, religious community, school, etc. Feel free to share the prayer electronically or order prayer cards from the Pax Christi USA store using this link.
Jesus, our tortured brother,
In this world, so many are forced to walk your path today – the suffering and pain, the humiliation, sense of betrayal and abandonment,
for those with power, the Romans of today, continue to condemn others to modern crosses.
You said what was done to the least of these was done to you and so each day,
You are tortured anew.
Jesus our guardian of the wounded and tortured,
Bid us to look into the secret prisons – the unmarked graves – the hearts and minds of torture survivors,
Bid us to wipe the tears of the families of those whose decapitated bodies were cast into the open sea,
Bid us to embrace the open wounds of the tortured.
Jesus, Guiding Spirit,
Teach us to be in solidarity with those who hang from these crosses,
Call out to those who torture, “Know the evil you have done and repent.”
Call out to the rest of us, “What meaning does love have if you allow torture to continue unopposed?”
In the name of all the tortured of the world, give us the strength, give us the courage, give us the will to bring this horror to an end, in the name of love, justice and the God of us all.
Torture Awareness Month is an effort by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and allied organizations to ensure that we, as a nation, take the time to honor the courage and struggle of torture survivors from around the world, and to organize a variety of effort to ensure that U.S. Americans are aware that U.S.-sponsored torture is a wrong that must be righted. Through vigils, letters-to-editor campaigns, programs in congregations and other activities, the aim is to raise the nation’s consciousness about torture as a moral issue that must be addressed in public policy.
Host a screening and discussion of the NRCAT film “Torture in Our Name”: This 35-minute documentary, directed by filmmaker Matthew Gossage, features movement leaders with first-hand experience of solitary confinement and faith leaders from three state campaigns to end solitary – the Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition, the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement/#HALTSolitary Campaign, and New Jersey Prison Justice Watch. The film is a call to action for communities of faith and conscience to engage in the growing nationwide movement to end the torture of solitary confinement.
Use this link to go to the NRCAT website to learn more about the film and download a discussion guide to help you plan your screening and discussion.
Watch “The Mauritanian”: The film tells the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi and his fight for freedom after being detained, tortured, and imprisoned without charge in Guantanamo. Now available for streaming from $4.99, we encourage you to watch it and to invite others to watch it as well. If you get a group to watch it (either together or separately) you can then use NRCAT’s The Mauritanian Viewing and Discussion Guide (available through this link to the NRCAT website) to organize an online or in-person post-watch discussion and advocacy group.
Light a candle on June 26: On the evening/night of June 26, the UN International Day of Support for Victims of Torture, join thousands of other Pax Christi USA members in lighting a candle and placing it in a window and offering up Dianna’s prayer (see prayer section above).
Sign the National Pledge: Use this link to add your name to and download a printable version of NRCAT’s new National Pledge: A Moral Call to End the Torture of Solitary Confinement. After you sign it, invite others to sign it.
Display a banner: Do you have an anti-torture banner? If you don’t have a banner but would like to display one, banners are available at a reduced rate or free of charge for congregations to display with messages including “Close Guantanamo” or “Solitary Confinement = Torture.” Please contact Rev. T.C. Morrow at 202-547-1920 or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in acquiring a banner from NRCAT.
Write a letter to the editor: Use this link to find sample talking points on closing Guantanamo on the NRCAT website.
Raise awareness or share action alerts on social media: Use social media to promote anti-torture messages during June.